is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada
called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain
ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full
of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity
to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without
Wilderness Adventures - September Week 3
you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes,
exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like
'Lake Monsters' - just go into Archives on the lower left side
of this page. The stories on this page are ordered by
date with the latest story at the top. Therefore, you must start
at the bottom and work up to read a series of articles in order.
seems to be a significant increase in both grizzly and
black bear attacks this fall. Not long ago a man
in his sixties was attacked by a black bear near Winnipeg,
Manitoba while picking plums. Residents there said there
had been a number of bears around and there was a serious
shortage of food for them. Competition for food
may have provoked the attack. On the same weekend,
an experienced hiker, a woman, was killed in Banff National
Park by a grizzly and resulted in trail closures in the
area for some time. A woman and her father from Escondido,
California were attacked in Glacier National Park by a
grizzly sow with cubs. In an attempt to
escape the bear, both tumbled over a small cliff and sustained
injuries both from the bear and the fall. The woman has
now been released from hospital and her father is listed
in stable condition. Pictures shown on the news showed
that the man had sustained serious injuries that included
scalping by the bear. The same happened this week
to a boy that ran into a bear near Burns Lake
northwest of Prince George while walking with a friend
and his dog. It was a surprise close range encounter and
the boy apparently was picked up by his head and thrown
by the bear. He sustained scalp injuries and a broken
leg while his friend ran for help. The boy's father said
they commonly see bears around their ranch
but this is the first time an incident in meeting a bear
has been this serious. Another very serious attack occurred
just recently in the States where the man received grievous
injury to his head and bite marks on his body. What
has caused such an unusual number of attacks by both grizzlies
and black bears this fall? Bears rely heavily
on plentiful and calorie rich feed to build up fat reserves
for winter hibernation. A bear with insufficient reserves
will die or be forced to exit their den in mid winter
or early spring in search of food that will be hard to
find that time of year. An interruption in their hibernation
cycle could also cause them to die. The voracious
hunt for food in the fall is a deep seated instinct
and competition for food sources, even with humans, can
result in attack on anything perceived to be a competitor.
Unusual weather cycles or drought can seriously deplete
normally bountiful food sources. The other cause can be
a sow protecting her cubs, especially first year cubs.
These two types, the rogue bear and the sow are
joined by a third type. This is a predator bear.
One that is unable to eat or find food because of aged
teeth, degraded eyesight or an injury impairing its ability
to search out the food it needs or one that has simply
found humans easy targets. I will cover these types, how
to spot them and suggested ways to defend yourself against
them in tomorrow's article.
and survival of attack by the three types of bear. As
discussed yesterday, it's the opinion of many of those
that study bears, that attacks on humans are led
by three different types of bear regardless whether they
are grizzly or black bear. And as such, we should
all use different modes of protecting ourselves for maximum
survival in case of an attack.
Although I don't have figures, I think the majority of
attacks on humans are by sows with cubs either where the
person got between a bear and her cubs unintentionally
or came on them suddenly and surprised the sow. A sow
is always ready to go on the offensive to protect her
cubs because it is not uncommon for a boar or male bear
to kill them. She must be strong, mean, fast and
take the offensive quickly in order to take her
opponent; hence the lightning quick attack that occurs
on humans more often than not. Authorities on the subject
say this is one of those occasions where you should back
up as quickly as possible away from the cubs, run in the
other direction as quickly as possible, especially if
the cubs are quite young, or in the worst case scenario,
roll up in a ball, protect your extremities and head and
be as non threatening as possible when attacked. It
is thought that a mother bear has only one motive in attacking
a human when she has young cubs and that is to
drive the threat away. As soon as that is accomplished,
she will take them and leave. The rare exception to this
rule, and it is very rare, has been when a sow chooses
to teach full-grown cubs how to hunt domestic animals
or humans. However, now you are talking about a predator
bear that just happens to be a mom as well and
since there is more than one animal involved, the most
dangerous threat of all.
Even a small single black bear sow such as the one
in the picture on the right with her tiny cub can be deadly.
I took a picture of her in Tweedsmuir Park
along Highway 20 two weeks ago where she and her cub were
feeding on berries along the road. She crossed the road
in front of us after tiring of the berry supply on one
side and proceeded to chow down on the other with no fear
of us at all. She must have been bred quite young because
although she was in good shape, she wasn't much bigger
than a large dog. Yet she could kill a human in a flash!
What could set her off and make her so dangerous?
No fear of humans.
She's going into winter so she's desperate
to get as much high calorie food into her as possible
in order to survive hibernation.
She has a first year cub with her.
Chances are that most of the time she would just run if
she felt threatened, but there is no way I would want
to be caught between her and her cub, even as small as
she is. I definitely would not want to be caught
between that grizzly sow and her two cubs in the picture
to your right.The best bet when dealing with the
possibility of running into a sow and cubs is to make
lots of noise warning her that you are in the area by
either whistling, singing or wearing a bell on your shoes.
If you can't make noise, such as when you are hunting,
stay very aware of your surroundings making sure to look
around to the sides, look ahead and up trees for any possibility
of cubs. Caution and constant awareness is always
recommended in bear country, even if that happens to be
in your own pasture or back yard, and it never
hurts to carry a can of bear spray in the woods or firecrackers
near salmon rivers. I've run out of time and room so I'll
have to continue on the other types of attack bear in
second type of bear whether black or grizzly is the rogue
bear and often its biggest fault is that it is
no longer afraid of humans. That's where the trouble starts.
A bear can become a rogue simply by being a dump
bear. Food is easily accessed in a garbage dump
and bears become accustomed to human smells and quite
often see humans come dump off garbage, possibly even
while they are down in the pit. (I've had that happen
to me a few times) Bears for years were fed illegally
by visitors to the nation's parks and bears are
fed on a regular basis, if unintentionally, whenever we
fill up our bird feeders with seed or set out
our garbage. In drought years when wild berries are fewer
or non existent, bears are often forced to move in on
domestic fruit trees, berry bushes or vegetable gardens
that get regular watering in our yards. The animals become
accustomed to the smell of humans, their pets and all
the attendant sounds that accompany us such as barking
dogs, vehicle sound, car horns, lawnmowers, and voices.
A bear not frightened of humans or their pets becomes
a dangerous bear. The most dangerous aspect is
coming on the bear by surprise in a place you least expect
it. You don't generally expect to have to be cautious
in your back yard, the town dump or on your back porch
where you have your box of peaches to be canned so you
generally go charging into one of those areas, head down
and not thinking of any danger at all. A wild bear,
on the other hand, would be doing back flips to get out
of there under those circumstances if he was there
to begin with. But a bear that has become accustomed to
humans is going to protect what he considers his newly
acquired food source, never mind that it's your
box of peaches. He doesn't have to work very hard
for that food, and he likes it that way. He's bigger than
you, meaner than you, and since he now considers
you competition for his easy pickings, he's going to fight
you for it. And chances are, he's going to do
it lightning quick.
This type of bear was created by humans in our national
parks where for years visitors would feed the bears or
foolishly pose their children near them using food
to bait the bears closer to the camera. It resulted
in generations of bears that would tear apart coolers,
tents, campers and cars in search of the easy food source
they had come to rely on, many since birth, because their
mothers taught them how to scavenge as cubs. The total
lack of fear for all things human eventually led to people
being mauled or killed and resulted in many bears being
hunted down for relocation or disposed of. Feeding the
bears in parks became illegal, and after those generations
of bears died out, bear attacks in parks have become rare.
This type of bear can also be created by injury
or old age and may result in a rogue bear or may
cause a predator bear. A bear with failing eyesight, few
or no teeth, one that has been wounded by a hunter or
one with injuries sustained in another manner can be a
mean, nasty, hungry bear. If it has difficulty finding
food from its natural sources, it may out of desperation
turn to human sources. You're back to the same element
of surprise as mentioned above that can be so unpleasant,
or you or your pets may be attacked just because
you look like an easy food source and this poor
bugger is hungry. He's just not thinking straight and
that makes him a really dangerous animal. Unfortunately,
there isn't usually a good end to such an animal. Relocation
is not going to help a bear like this because it is probably
going to starve to death or die of its injuries if that
is what caused the problem to begin with. Game wardens
or police must usually kill the bear before it can cause
further harm to people or their pets.
The first step with a rogue bear is not creating
one in the first place. Be cautious if one is
sighted in your neighborhood especially in fall when there's
a lot of fruit or vegetables ripening in the back yard.
Keep your garbage cleaned up and sealed in cans and pull
in your birdfeeders. If a bear is known to be in the area
contact local authorities and discuss your options. If
you have neighbours nearby and they are seeing the same
bear or bears, wardens or police may have to come in and
relocate or dispose of the animal. Unfortunately, in our
area when we have a problem bear, warden manpower for
the region is so limited, we usually have to take matters
into our own hands. Those of us that hunt get bear tags.
You generally have a pretty good description for
a problem bear if it's broken or pounded on enough
windows and patio doors as did one we had in the neighbourhood
two years ago. Sometimes there just isn't any option and
for the safety of children, tourists, hikers, livestock
and pets, you have to shoot the animal.
Next article discusses the mysterious predator bear.
And that folks ... is the one that scares the heck outta
the one that gives me the heebie jeebies. It's also
the most dangerous bear of all because it actively stalks
or hunts humans, pets and livestock. Fortunately,
it is also rare. Probably because man is swift to exact
retribution for a bear that kills deliberately.
You have probably all heard of the bear at Laird hot springs,
the couple killed while camping on a remote islet in Ontario
and the couple attacked while hiking up north. In the
latter attack, the man survived and reported that the
bear had stalked the couple for some distance. Eyewitness
accounts describe none other than a predator bear at Laird
and forensic evidence in the case of the couple in Ontario
points at an opportunistic bear that attacked and killed
the two people before they even had a chance to set up
camp, then kept them in the 'larder' for up to a week
returning periodically to feed on them. They never found
No one knows what creates a predator bear
and in some instances blame can be put on age, poor eyesight,
few or no teeth, disease, gunshot wounds or injuries sustained
otherwise. But more often than not, autopsies show the
predator animal to be in excellent condition. So
what causes a bear to go bad? Is it starvation,
or just plain meanness? It is known that sows will teach
their cubs predator behaviour and this started to become
a major problem in our national parks for a few years
until laws came in banning the feeding of wildlife and
park wardens started monitoring problem bears more closely.
We have a rancher that has been in this area for a long,
long time (no, I won't give you his name) that over the
years, had killed up to fourteen grizzlies by 1988 because
he was losing so many calves and some cows to one every
spring. Although this would horrify most naturalists,
we still enjoy quite a healthy population of grizzly
in the region and the rancher was able to raise
a family and make a living from ranching.
We also had our own incident years ago involving a person
that retired out here back in the 30's. When he retired
out here, he bought a ranch and was out on horseback feeding
pellets to the weaker of his cattle one spring. Over a
ridge he heard noises in the willows and checked, assuming
it might be a trapped cow or calf. Instead, it was
a grizzly sow on the remains of a moose, and when she
charged, he tried to climb a tree. The grizzly
pulled him out of the tree and they fought to a standstill.
The grizzly eventually let off the attack, and he started
backing up all the way across a lake to his cabin on the
other side. He survived, but it was not a pretty sight
to see the man in the coffee shop, even years later. He
was missing part of his nose and an eye, his arm was shrunken
and withered as well as the leg on that side of the body
that had taken the brunt of the attack. Most interesting
about this tough rancher is that he never lost his footing
or went down as he wrestled with the bear. Would
he have survived if he'd played dead as some scientists
suggest? Probably not, in my humble opinion.
There is some argument among naturalists and scientists
on the reality of a predator bear. But if you watch some
of the film footage in documentaries or read some of the
authoritive books on the subject, there doesn't
seem to be any doubt that such a creature exists.
Smith, a friend of mine, ran into one and I'll tell his
What to do if you run into an animal that is actively
stalking you? Obviously the bear's motive is different
from that of a sow with cubs. She only wants the danger
to her cubs to move away. While you may want to move away
from a predator bear, you do not want to do it with your
back to it. Looking as large as possible by waving your
arms and yelling at it or beating a club against a tree
may help. if it continues coming you will want to start
backing up all the while making as much noise as possible.
Try to get into a safe position and start looking
at your arsenal. If you have bear spray, a knife,
a pistol or a rifle, get it ready. If not, start looking
for a strong stick or pole or anything that will serve
as a weapon. In the case of this type of bear, it is my
personal belief, and that of some scientists, that curling
up and playing dead is the wrong thing to do. That's what
the bear wants in the end anyway, so make it as hard as
you can on him. You want to discourage him from continuing
the attack, not make it easy for him.
While some advocate climbing a large tree to get away
from a bear, keep in mind that black bears can climb far
better than you and grizzlies have been known
to shake people out of very large trees or actually climb
high enough to drag a person out of a tree as happened
to Connie King as well as a couple of forestry fellows
north of Prince George. If that is your only option, however,
then try to take a weapon of some sort up with you. Tomorrow
is Smith's story.
Smith's Bear Story
happened to a friend of mine about five or six years ago
northwest of Prince George in British Columbia. Smith
has been a woodsman, guide and outfitter all his life.
He and his wife live in one of the most bear infested
regions in western Canada so they're both accustomed
to both black bears and grizzlies. His guiding area is
a few hundred miles from his home so he goes into the
area in summer to cut new trails, scout new areas and
check on the movement of wildlife. In fall he takes his
pack horses and assistant guides into the area and stays
for several months with clients coming in to hunt for
goat, caribou, deer, moose and bear. Smith
is a great big bear of a man, tough and fearless but I
still remember how his voice shook when he told me this
He had gone out to check on an area one day and took his
rifle with him. He had been walking for some time
when the hair started to go up on the back of his neck
and he began to feel as though something was watching
him. He continued on cautiously and quietly, listening
carefully. Every once in a while he would hear the faint
snap of a twig behind him and a dread feeling just got
worse as he walked through the deep woods. He didn't dare
start circling toward home because chances were very good
that he would meet whatever was behind him trying to circle
to get ahead of him. He finally came to a large clearing
of natural meadow grass and walked into the middle of
it where he stood listening. Again he heard the
odd twig snap. That indicated that it was still
behind him and hadn't circled around him yet. He sprinted
to the other side of the meadow, put a large tree to his
back, and waited. Finally, a huge brown bear stepped into
view at the edge of the clearing, nose down on Smith's
trail, then followed his tracks out into the meadow. There
it stopped and looked up, straight at him.
Smith hoped there was a possibility that this bear was
just curious and had never seen or smelled a human before.
So he yelled at it, making himself as large as possible
waving his arms and smacking the tree behind him, all
actions that would normally cause a bear to run like hell
the other way. The bear just kept coming.
My realistic, down to earth friend said those two small
pig eyes just stared at him the whole time it moved toward
him and the
whole animal just reeked of malevolence. He brought
up the rifle and fired in front of the bear, spraying
dirt into its face, hoping the boom of the rifle surely
would scare the bear. It stopped, looked at him, then
charged. He had no choice but to fire as many shots as
he could into the animal before it reached him. It nearly
did before it died.
He butchered the bear because he wanted to know what would
have caused an animal in such fine condition to act like
this. He's had lots of experience with opening up animals
over the years and said he could not find a single thing
to indicate the animal was diseased or injured and that
its stomach was full. But the stomach contents indicated
the bear was a meat eater. It looked like it considered
my friend to be lunch.
Everything about the bear indicated a classic predator
bear. It was stalking its meal and had no fear of humans.
It was unknown whether the animal was familiar with people
or not and Smith was never able to reach a conclusion
on that point.
The Truth of Bears
referred to Smith's story in the last article and had
I never had any experiences with bears, I would have had
to taken his story with a grain of salt. But I know
the man and he's no storyteller when it comes to something
like this. And I've been there too.
In 1981 economic disaster struck us all. Jobs were limited
and a lot of people were laid off in a world where the
industry bubble had burst, much like the tech industry
in 2001 where so many people that had invested in 'Internet'
style businesses got caught with their pants down ...
In the early eighties, the onslaught was caused by ridiculously
high interest rates and I had been one of the ones caught
up in the downsize wave, so a friend and I decided to
go gold panning. The Cariboo was rich in gold at
one time and many of the creeks and rivers, such
as the Fraser and Quesnel still yield small nuggets and
flour gold to a person with patience. We decided to go
up to Quesnel Forks where two major rivers meet and do
some gold panning. We did so for days in the freezing
water of late fall and actually didn't do too badly for
newbies to the gold panning game. Until I accidentally
kicked our Cheez Whiz jar of gold into the water
while adding more gold dust and lost it all to the current.
Ok, so tempers were a little high for a while but it wasn't
really enough to make a living on anyway, ok?
Based on my research and books, we decided to head
up a creek called Cedar Creek because it had been
an excellent gold bearing creek until the next bonanza
on the next creek in the late 1800's. At that time, prospectors
had a habit of leaving a perfectly good paying area for
the possibility of 'the big one' up the road. Gossip and
dreams were the mainstay in gold country in those days.
We found the creek and began to follow it upcountry in
dense underbrush canopied by huge, dark cedar trees. The
woods were dark because sunlight just couldn't pierce
the cedar branches overhead and the ground was soft from
rotting vegetation in an almost rainforest type of ecosystem.
Not long after starting out I got the heebie jeebies.
I have good instincts in the woods. I have highly honed
instincts when I'm only carrying a shovel and gold pan
and my partner ahead of me is the only one with a rifle.
We had my golden lab/husky cross with us. She was a smart
dog and had good instincts too. I figured that out when
I had difficulty walking because she was either between
my legs or bumping off my knees because she was walking
so close beside me and the fur was standing straight
up on her neck and shoulders. So I paid attention
to sound because I have excellent hearing. Yep, sure enough,
on the ridge above us I was hearing the odd faint snap
of a twig and I'm the first to admit...I got rattled.
That bad feeling just wasn't going away,
it was getting worse.
I had mentioned to my gold panning partner several times
my feeling on the situation and didn't get anywhere. Finally,
the raised hair-on-the-neck feeling got so bad I finally
had to tell my partner that it was time to turn back because
this just wasn't a good place to be. Being a city yahoo,
he wasn't buying it and he had that city oblivion thing
happening along with the " I'm cool, and afraid of
nothing" testosterone stuff going on. I finally gave
him an ultimatum. "You carry the shovel and
I carry the rifle or me and the dog are turning around!"
Since he wasn't about to give up the rifle, he reluctantly
gave in and we backtracked.
We got into the truck and drove by road paralleling the
creek until we got to where another road turned off down
to the creek, about where we had wanted to get by walking.
We pulled down as close as we could but the road was pretty
wet from recent rains and got out to walk to the creek.
Only a few steps from the truck I looked down and
told my gold panning partner to get back to the truck.
He didn't understand what I was saying and started to
continue down the road. "Get back in the truck now!"
I yelled. He looked down and finally saw what I had.
When they talk about dinner plate sized grizzly
tracks ... it's really true. Except that in this
case, the mud was oozing back into these tracks - they
were so fresh. It became very obvious, even to my city-bred
friend, that this bear had in fact been above us on the
ridge the entire time and now that he hit the same road
we would have to go down to the creek, he would have intercepted
us. Was it just an accident that he was going the
same direction? Maybe. Or had he been stalking
us? Both me and the dog had been feeling the same way
for at least 45 minutes. That's a long time for an animal
to 'just happen' to be in the same part of the country
for the same amount of time. But had we met whether by
accident or design, the outcome either way would not have
been pretty. He would have run away, or died, or
we would have been mauled. That simple. It taught
me an important lesson. I would never again go into the
woods, especially bear country, with someone less experienced
than me in woodscraft that won't listen. I haven't broken
that rule to this day. I've
started a new week, so if you would like catch up on articles
from last week you'll find it here at September2
The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a
remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a
beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search
engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim
Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities
in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large
as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough
room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible
country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip
of the iceberg, so join me!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!